rehearsal dinner ideas & tips

by | Apr 10, 2024 | inspiration, planning tips

As the excitement builds towards the big day, a special moment stands out, marking not just the rehearsal of the ceremony but a celebration of love, family, and friendship. This moment, known as the rehearsal dinner, serves as an intimate prelude to the wedding, gathering the closest of kin and comrades in anticipation of the union that’s about to be celebrated 🎉❤️

It’s a time for laughter, tears, toasts, and tales – an opportunity for the couple to express their gratitude, share their journey, and look forward to the future together.

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What is a wedding rehearsal dinner?

A wedding rehearsal dinner is traditionally held the night before the wedding, following the ceremony rehearsal. It’s a chance for the wedding party, family members, and possibly out-of-town guests to come together in a more personal setting.

Historically hosted by the groom’s family, the modern rehearsal dinner has evolved, often becoming collaborative among all parties involved.

The etiquette of rehearsal dinners

The rehearsal dinner traditionally involves the groom’s family as hosts and financiers, but modern trends show that the couple or both families often share these responsibilities. Invitations are extended to the wedding party, immediate family, and sometimes out-of-town guests based on the couple’s preference.

Typically held the night before the wedding following the ceremony rehearsal, this event’s timing and guest list reflect a blend of tradition and personal choice, ensuring a memorable lead-up to the wedding day.

Planning your rehearsal dinner: a step-by-step guide

Our straightforward steps will help you get your wedding rehearsal dinner plans off the ground, removing any confusion from the planning phase.

1. Decide who hosts the rehearsal dinner

Traditionally, the groom’s family hosts the rehearsal dinner. However, modern practices are flexible, allowing any close family member or couple to take on this role. It’s important to establish early who will be responsible for planning and covering the costs associated with the dinner to set clear expectations and budgeting.

2. Choose a rehearsal dinner location

choose a rehearsal dinner location

The location of the rehearsal dinner should reflect the couple’s personality and how formal or casual they want the event to be. Popular options include restaurants, private dining rooms, outdoor spaces, or a family member’s home. Consider the convenience of the guests’ location and the wedding venue.

3. Define the rehearsal dinner theme

A theme can make the rehearsal dinner feel more personalized and cohesive. It doesn’t have to be elaborate—a simple color scheme or motif that complements the wedding can add a special touch. The theme can influence decorations, invitations, and even the menu to create a memorable prelude to the wedding day.

4. Decide the timing of the rehearsal dinner

Typically, the rehearsal dinner takes place the evening before the wedding, following the wedding rehearsal. It’s crucial to start and end the event reasonably, allowing the wedding party and guests to rest before the big day. Confirm the wedding rehearsal time with your venue to plan the dinner timing accordingly.

5. Create the guest list & send invitations

Compile a guest list featuring the wedding party, immediate family, and close friends, keeping in mind your budget and venue size. Aim to send these invitations after the wedding ones, about 4-6 weeks in advance, ensuring they reflect the dinner’s style and include essential details such as the venue, date, time, and RSVP instructions.

6. Plan the menu

plan the menu

The menu should cater to the guests’ dietary preferences and restrictions. Work with the host location or a caterer to select dishes that complement the theme and satisfy various tastes. Offering a selection of appetizers, entrees, and desserts can ensure everyone enjoys their meal.

7. Plan entertainment and activities

Entertainment can range from background music to a full performance, depending on the dinner’s formality and the couple’s preferences. Consider incorporating activities like toasts or slideshows to share memories and celebrate the couple.

8. Prepare for special moments

The rehearsal dinner is ideal for heartfelt toasts and giving out special gifts to the wedding party or family members. Plan who will speak and when these moments occur to ensure they’re integrated seamlessly into the evening.

9. Coordinate with vendors

Coordinating with vendors is essential if the dinner will feature decorations, entertainment, or special equipment. Confirm arrangements and delivery times, and designate someone to handle any day-of coordination to ensure everything runs smoothly.

10. Celebrate and enjoy!

plastic champagne flutes - 5 top picks

The most important aspect of the rehearsal dinner is to relax and enjoy the company of close family and friends before the wedding day. It’s a time to celebrate love, make lasting memories, and look forward to the future.

Rehearsal dinner ideas

Discover the ideal wedding rehearsal dinner concepts tailored for you. We’ve compiled a selection of our most cherished approaches to rehearsal dinner ideas and places to have one, offering advice on kickstarting your creative process.

1. Boho-styled luxury pop-up picnic

Transform your rehearsal dinner into an unforgettable evening with our boho-styled luxury pop-up picnic. Our service includes everything needed for a stunning outdoor celebration, perfect for those who desire a unique and sophisticated dining experience under the open sky. Guests will be enchanted by designer setups featuring handmade low picnic tables, boho-style umbrellas for a chic touch, and an assortment of pillows and decor that add to the ambiance.

bridal shower picnic in LA

With our comprehensive package, including post-event clean-up, you can immerse yourself in the joy of the occasion without any worries. Ideal for creating a relaxed yet elegant atmosphere, book our luxury picnic experience to begin your wedding festivities in style.

2. Boho-chic dinner party

Transform your gathering into an enchanting boho-chic affair with our expert tablescaping services. Envision a stylish dinner illuminated by the warm glow of candlelight, surrounded by an array of meticulously chosen bohemian decorations.

From elegant silverware and intricate dishes to lush floral arrangements and bespoke table runners, every detail is thoughtfully curated to create a cozy yet sophisticated atmosphere.


Our services in Los Angeles, Orange County, and Malibu ensure a memorable and sophisticated ambiance without any hassle. Elevate your event effortlessly – book our tablescaping service now for a seamless blend of luxury and charm.

3. Gourmet food truck night

Celebrate your rehearsal dinner with various gourmet food trucks, offering everything from artisanal burgers to international cuisines. This informal setup encourages guests to mingle and enjoy a variety of dishes in a relaxed outdoor setting. Add string lights, picnic tables, and a playlist of your favorite songs to create a festive atmosphere.

4. Backyard BBQ bash

Transform a backyard into the perfect venue for a BBQ bash, with grilled favorites, fresh sides, and a selection of beers and lemonades. Enhance the ambiance with lawn games like cornhole or bocce ball, fairy lights for when the sun sets, and a cozy fire pit for gathering around as the evening winds down.

5. Beach bonfire party

A beach bonfire sets the scene for a magical evening under the stars. Provide guests with blankets and beach chairs for comfort, and serve a casual menu featuring a seafood boil or grilled fish tacos. A guitarist or a playlist of beach tunes can add to the ambiance, making for an unforgettable night by the sea.

6. Rooftop cocktail soiree

rooftop cocktail soiree

Opt for sophistication with a cocktail party on a rooftop overlooking the city. Curate a selection of craft cocktails and sophisticated bites, ensuring there’s something for every taste. Soft lighting, ambient music, and comfortable lounge areas create an exclusive vibe perfect for toasting to your upcoming nuptials.

7. Garden tea party

A garden setting provides the perfect backdrop for a tea party-themed rehearsal dinner. Offer a selection of teas, finger sandwiches, scones, and pastries. Decorate with floral arrangements and vintage tableware to enhance the garden’s natural beauty and create a quaint and charming atmosphere.

Find the theme you’d like to choose with the best tea-party ideas in this guide.

8. Private yacht dinner

Charter a yacht for an intimate dinner on the water. This luxurious option lets you enjoy stunning views and a fresh breeze as you dine. A catered meal, perhaps with a seafood focus and a selection of wines or champagne, can elevate the experience, making it a serene and memorable prelude to your wedding day.

9. Jazz night lounge

Jazz party

Create an ambiance of old-world charm with a jazz night lounge theme. Choose a venue with a speakeasy feel, or set up your space with dim lighting, plush seating, and live jazz music. A cocktail menu and small, elegant bites can complement the music and set the tone for a night of relaxed sophistication.

10. Brewery tasting and dinner

If you and your partner love craft beer, consider hosting your rehearsal dinner at a local brewery. Many breweries offer private event spaces and catering options, allowing guests to sample various beers paired with delicious, hearty foods. This casual and fun atmosphere is perfect for beer lovers and those looking to enjoy a laid-back evening.

11. Farm-to-table field dinner

Celebrate your rehearsal dinner with a farm-to-table experience in a picturesque field or farm. Dine al fresco at long communal tables, enjoying dishes crafted from the freshest local produce and ingredients. This rustic yet elegant setting, surrounded by nature’s beauty, offers a personal and grounded approach to your pre-wedding festivities.

If you need help with organizing and decoration your events – Picnic Makers are the professionals that can will elevate your rehearsal dinner to another level.

Wrapping up, the rehearsal dinner is more than just a tradition; it’s a heartfelt gathering that weaves together the threads of love, family, and friendship. It’s your canvas to paint with moments of gratitude, laughter, and anticipation.

As you embark on the final touches before saying “I do,” let this occasion reflect the unique tapestry of your relationship. Here’s to beginning your wedding celebrations with an event as unique and special as the love story it honors.


Can I use a dinner rehearsal theme different from a wedding theme?

Your rehearsal dinner is a chance to explore a different facet of your creativity and personal style. While some opt for consistency between their wedding and rehearsal dinner themes, choosing a contrasting theme for the rehearsal dinner can offer a refreshing change of pace and set a distinctive tone for the celebrations to come.

How can we make our rehearsal dinner more interactive for guests?

Consider incorporating interactive elements such as a DIY cocktail station, a build-your-own dessert bar, or even a short, fun quiz about the couple. Interactive activities entertain guests, facilitate mingling, and create memorable experiences.

Is it appropriate to have a casual dress code for a rehearsal dinner?

A casual dress code is perfectly acceptable, especially if your event’s theme or location lends itself to a more laid-back atmosphere. The key is communicating the dress code in your invitations to ensure guests feel comfortable and appropriately dressed.

Should we prepare speeches or toasts for the rehearsal dinner?

While not mandatory, rehearsal dinner speeches or toasts can add a personal touch to the special day. This is an excellent opportunity for the couple, their families, and perhaps a few wedding party members to share heartfelt messages, stories, and well-wishes in a more intimate setting.

Can we host a rehearsal dinner without a formal sit-down meal?

No hard rules dictate that a rehearsal dinner must include a formal meal. Alternative options like a cocktail reception, a tapas-style gathering, or even a picnic can provide a wonderful setting for your pre-wedding celebration. The goal is to create an environment where guests can relax, mingle, and celebrate the upcoming wedding in a way that feels right to you.

Olga and Vlad Picnic Makers

Vlad and Olga

Hello, beautiful souls! 🌸 We’re Vlad and Olga, the storytellers behind each journey. Join us on this adventure as we share tales of joy, celebration, and a life well-lived. Thanks for being part of our magical story! 🌟

Learn more >> About Us >> Contact Us

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